Monday, May 05, 2008
Green’s legacy is outdoors
Environmentalist, professor and author Fess Green spearheaded the effort to redevelop Radford’s Wildwood Park.
Courtesy of Pathways for Radford
Fess Green’s widow has asked that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to a trail advocacy group.
RADFORD — As family, friends and colleagues paid tribute to Fess Green at a Sunday night memorial service at Radford University’s Preston Hall, a mile away at Wildwood Park children rode their bikes and played in the streams that run along the trails and bridges that are Green’s lasting legacy.
Green, whose given name was Forrest, was a 68-year-old bicycling advocate, environmentalist and travel book author. He died Tuesday, nearly a week after he and his bike collided with a car near the entrance to Radford’s Bisset Park.
“Fess was a person who saw nature and all of God’s creation as good. And he wanted it to stay good,” said Jim Grealish, a friend and neighbor of Green who was the lone speaker at Sunday’s brief service. A member of Radford University’s faculty for more than 20 years, Green led the effort to redevelop Radford’s Wildwood Park, helping with the design and construction of trails and recruiting students to help maintain them.
Green was perhaps best known outside of Radford for his book, “Wilderness Road Odyssey: A Cyclist’s Journey Through Present and Past,” published in 2003 by Pocahontas Press. The book was written from journals Green kept each summer from 1994 to 1998 while bicycling about 850 miles of the trail.
Some historians say parts of that pioneer path run through Virginia, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky. Virginia tourism officials last year unveiled a self-guided driving tour of the trail inspired in part by Green’s travels.
But it was to Wildwood Park — Radford’s 50-acre wooded refuge — that Green devoted much of his time and energy. When he died, Green was waiting for news about a grant proposal he recently helped write that could bring $150,000 worth of improvements to Wildwood.
“Fess wanted a shelter, a little place for people to rest at the entrance to the park,” said Liz Altieri, president of Pathways for Radford, a trail advocacy group to which Green belonged.
Green also loved rocks and wanted a rock sculpture or garden in the park, she said. “So he’ll get those. It will happen.”
“He was the pride of our community, really,” Altieri said.
In lieu of flowers, Millie, Green’s wife of 47 years, has asked mourners to donate money to Pathways. By Saturday evening, the group had collected $400 through its Web site, spokesman Rick Dickinson said.
Dickinson and fellow Pathways member Rick Van Noy rode their bikes to the service and sat in the audience holding their helmets.
The wreck that took Green’s life has reminded the city’s bicycling community of the dangers they face on the roads, Dickinson said. “If it can happen to Fess, it can happen again.”
Van Noy said he hopes the tragedy will make drivers more alert to bicyclists.
“Keep an eye out for us,” Van Noy said.
Green taught in the university’s management department from 1987. Before that, he taught at Virginia Tech, where he earned his doctorate. He also taught at Appalachian State and Old Dominion University. Green served in Vietnam and retired from the Navy.
Pathways for Radford is planning a memorial ride dedicated to Green on May 21.
On the Net: pathways4radford.org